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Epidemiology

Identifying and understanding the risk factors associated with HIV acquisition and transmission, and the development and progression of AIDS in men, women, and adolescents are critical aspects in the fight against this disease. Using epidemiological methods, NIAID-supported investigators are able to address key scientific questions by studying and comparing the effects of HIV in different human populations. Scientific findings gathered from these epidemiological studies help to provide insight on how to prevent the spread of HIV and also improve the quality of life for those already infected.  

One major area of investigation involves studying the patterns of use and the efficacy/effectiveness of therapies in clinical trials and in cohort studies. The dramatic impact of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) on HIV infection has prompted researchers to study the long-term clinical course of HIV infection in people using HAART. While there have been no signs of a decrease in the effectiveness of HAART therapy, widespread drug resistance remains a concern. Furthermore, as people living with HIV continue to live longer, many of these immunocompromised individuals, who will naturally have a higher prevalence of other disease risk factors due to age, may develop other life threatening morbidities, such as heart disease or cancer, at a younger age than their HIV-negative peers. These types of scientific questions are now being investigated through epidemiological research. The current goals of NIAID epidemiological research include 

  • Identifying the proportion of the population affected by HIV and the rate at which new infections are occurring
  • Describing the changing manifestations of the clinical and laboratory course of HIV infection, the changing frequency with which various complications occur, and the impact of therapy on HIV-related survival and clinical outcomes
  • Investigating the clinical course of HIV infection among people with other co-morbidities to better understand the natural and treated history of the disease in those with other chronic conditions
  • Evaluating the patterns of adherence to HAART in populations around the world, the predictors of disease progression, and the efficacy of HAART in populations exposed to a variety of other concomitant infections and under nutritional and other health stressors
  • Studying the biological, clinical, and epidemiological characteristics of people who are at high risk for HIV infection but do not become infected and those who are long-term non-progressors

Additional Information

Last Updated September 11, 2013